The High Price of Instability

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Traditional wisdom knows that we can be crushed by grief and die of a broken heart, and also that a jilted lover is apt to do things that are foolish or dangerous to himself or others. It knows too that neither love nor grief is felt for just any human being, but only for one, or a few particular and individual human beings.

(Bowlby, 1979)

Stability has two faces, bonding and permanence. Bonding is the first face. We find stability in family and friends, our relationships with others, and our significant attachments, better known as bonding. When something exciting or distressful happens, we want to share that moment with someone close. We all have a hunger for intimacy. Everyone needs someone who will always be there for them.

A permanent home is the other face of stability. In the recent economic downturn, one of the two major crises people feared was foreclosure and the loss of a home. Home base. Where we live. A comfort place. Somewhere to go to lick our wounds.

Bonding and a permanent home, they are two expressions of the same concept. Both relate to what John Bowlby meant by a stable base. Prolonged foster care and emancipation to “independent” living deprive us of both.

Holiday time highlights the absence of family for a child who has been emancipated with no place to call home. Where do I go for Thanksgiving? Or Christmas? Everyone else is going home for the renewal of memories and the exchange of gifts. Families are celebrating but I will be alone.

Other young adults have a place to call home: a place to bring their laundry, to borrow money, or parental person to call for advice or support. Someone who cares that today is my birthday. Not me. I have been emancipated to independent living. Who is there for me?